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Southern Ohio must train, employ youth

Southern Ohio should promote alternative employment training for youth not going to college.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest figures, less than 14 percent of the county populations of Brown, Adams, Scioto, Lawrence, Jackson, Pike and Ross pursued and obtained a four-year college degree.  This is half the national average of 27.5 percent.

While Clermont is higher at 23.8 percent, three-fourths of this county’s population still did not obtain a four-year degree.

This doesn’t have to be bad news.

First, obtaining a college degree is no longer a golden ticket to having a good career.

Students graduating from colleges like many with liberal arts degrees but without practical employment skills are equally pressed to find interested employers – and are buried in education debt to boot.

Second, there are solid career alternatives for youths not wishing to go to college.

The U.S. Department of Labor annually publishes employment projections by occupation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, lists numerous well-paying occupations that do not require a college degree; are projected to continue having strong employment demand in the future; and offer above average wages.

Employees with specialized training and certifications in these careers are in even higher demand.

These careers tend to be in technical and trade occupations, and include: Computer Network, Systems, and Database Administrators; Electricians; Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Workers; Occupational Therapists; Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics; Medical Assistants; Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers.

Southern Ohio should launch a regional program that promotes careers in technology and trade occupations for those of our youth not interested in pursuing a traditional college education.

Much of the infrastructure is already in place for such a program.

There are very good educational institutions in our region with strong training and certification programs in technology and trades, such as the Scioto County Career Technical Center, Southern State Community College, Shawnee State Community College, and the Ohio University in Chillicothe, to name a few.

These programs should be promoted early on in high school as alternatives to college.

Government should provide local employers incentives to offer summer internships to high school students.  These internships would allow students to get hands-on experience in their field of study.

Youth who are out of school and in financial need should be provided tuition assistance and work-study opportunities with local employers to help pay for their training and living expenses.

Youth who satisfactorily complete their studies and work assignments would be given priority consideration for full-time employment.

Students who fail to complete their studies or are terminated from program-sponsored employment for poor performance would be required to pay back the program or perform community service until the government’s good faith investment is paid off.

Of course, this type of employment training program depends on the availability of local jobs to benefit southern Ohio.

The best way to lose the potential of our youth is to hand them a practical employment skill with no employment opportunity to follow.

I have been writing on the need for creative job growth in southern Ohio for several years.

For those interested, I offer a free bumper sticker to raise awareness on this issue in your local community.  Just go to www.jobgrowthnow.com to order.

With collaboration and strong leadership, we can provide good career alternatives for our youth and make them proud to build their careers and their lives in southern Ohio.

Joe Green is from Piketon and is president and CEO of NPRC, a management consulting firm, and may be reached via e-mail at joe@joegreen.us